Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Candy Of The Garden: Growing And Cooking Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes have lived as salad toppings for far too long. Chef Daniel Orr's recipe for burst cherry tomatoes will give your taste buds a treat.

cherry tomato pizza

Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

This recipe for burst cherry tomatoes is a great way to use the late summer bounty of cherry tomatoes.

Cherry Tomato Pizza

Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

Cherry tomatoes are the bite-sized flavor bullets that are just as good straight from the garden to your mouth as they are cooked in to a compote and mixed with pasta. Chef Daniel Orr has a garden bursting with cherry tomatoes. He doesn’t really need to tend them from season to season. “They kind of make their own routine.”

We walked all over his expansive garden in Columbus, Indiana picking tomatoes here and there, along the chain link fence and next to a flower bed. They tend to spread themselves all over the place from season to season. To Chef Orr, this makes cherry tomatoes “volunteers” in the garden.

“They’re really bountiful when the days start to get a little cooler and shorter,” Chef Orr said. Only Mother Nature knows, but this season, his batch of cherry tomatoes popped up late, in mid-September. They grow quickly, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the tomatoes you suddenly have waiting to be eaten.

“When you have a whole lot of tomatoes right out of the garden, you need to use them up somehow,” he said.

I love using cherry tomatoes as toppings on my salad and they make a great on-the-go snack straight from the fridge. But, Chef Orr suggests cooking them for a change of pace. Using hot oil, cook the tomatoes just long enough for the skins to wrinkle. They’ll maintain their shape and firmness, but when you bite into them, the cherry tomatoes will explode with juicy sweetness.

Add a generous dose of garlic and some chopped basil and this dish makes for a great new way to eat through a bunch of your garden’s tomatoes. It can be served in any number of ways: with toasted bread, on top of pasta, or on top of sauteed kale leaves.

Burst Cherry Tomatoes

Try this dish as a starter for your next family dinner. Then, next growing season, lay down some cherry tomato seeds and enjoy the bounty that bursts through. These are a great way to use the late summer bounty of cherry tomatoes. You can serve them over pasta, on grilled meat or fish or add them to any vegetable plate. They are addictive. Note: try adding anchovies, capers, basil and/or olives for a change of pace.

Burst Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Aux Poivres Spice Blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large saute pan and remove from heat. Remove stems from tomatoes. Add the tomatoes. Cover to prevent splattering.
  2. Return to heat and add garlic. Cook just until the skins split.
  3. Season with remaining ingredients and toss carefully with the tomatoes. Best served at room temperature.
  4. Pour over tart shell. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Or, serve over pasta, meat or fish. Add to vegetable plate.

How To Grow The Perfect Tomatoes

It’s never too early to start thinking about preparing your garden! Whether you’ve gardened since childhood, or are just now thinking about taking to the greens, here are some great tips for getting the best out of your tomato garden:

  1. Don’t Over Crowd Seeds – when starting the tomatoes from seed, give the seedlings plenty of room to expand. Crowded conditions keep them from reaching their full potential.
  2. Place In Direct Sunlight – seedlings need to be placed in direct sunlight. Place them in the sunniest part of your garden.
  3. Provide A Breeze For Your Plants - tomatoes need plenty of wind in order to develop stronger stems. You can put a fan on them 5 to 10 minutes a day.
  4. “Preheat” Before Planting – before planting, cover you plot with a black tarp in order to provide warmth.
  5. Bury Deep – tomatoes can grow roots all the way up their stems, so be sure to bury your plant deeper than it came in the pot.
  6. Don’t Forget to Mulch! – mulching helps to conserve water. Make sure you mulch after the soil has warmed up.
  7. Remove Leaves - when the plants are 3′ tall, take away the leaves from the bottom 1′ of the stem.
  8. Pinch and Prune – remove the suckers that pop up in the “crotch” of the branches.
  9. Water Regularly – like most plants, water regularly.
  10. “Setting Your Tomatoes” – determinate tomatoes tend to ripen their fruit all at once. You can grow indeterminate tomatoes to set fruit earlier by taking off the tips of the  stems in early summer.

You can find more “Terrific Tomato Tips” on About.com, or check out The Weekend Gardener.

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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  • Lydia

    At the end of the season…. the frantic day before the first frost ;) i pick my tomatoes. Green one's go in a shoebox to ripen. Because they are less flovorfull I do the following: I half my cherry tomatoes, coat them in olive oil and minced garlic and put them in the oven at 220 for 4 hours. Then I freeze them and use them for the best spagetti sauce ever :)

  • Lydia

    At the end of the season…. the frantic day before the first frost ;) i pick my tomatoes. Green one's go in a shoebox to ripen. Because they are less flovorfull I do the following: I half my cherry tomatoes, coat them in olive oil and minced garlic and put them in the oven at 220 for 4 hours. Then I freeze them and use them for the best spagetti sauce ever :)

  • Teri Harvey

    Some great tips here. Wish I could get my cherry tomatoes to do well – hadn't considered 'pre-heating' the growing area before planting. Will try it thanks!

    Teri

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